It’s only available in mid-spec Sport and range-topping S line trim. Our test car featured the latter, and came with large alloy wheels and more aggressive bumpers at the front and rear.
Until the S3 Sportback arrives next autumn, this will be the fastest and most expensive Sportback you can buy. While it doesn’t offer quite as much punch as the 296bhp S3, acceleration from 0-62mph takes just 6.8 seconds.
Although that sounds promising, it never actually feels that fast from behind the wheel. Power delivery is smooth, but the engine never sounds particularly exciting, so there’s no real drama in the way it accelerates. It’s a similar story in bends, where the quattro 4WD means it’s grippy and it never feels particularly light on its feet.
This model has multi-link rear suspension rather than the torsion beam set-up of lesser versions, and as a result it flows better and feels more composed. However, the steering is still short on feel.
With the optional Audi Drive Select system fitted to our car set to ‘Sport’, the steering weights up, but it doesn’t improve feedback.
Arguably, though, these aren’t the Sportback’s strong points – but there are plenty of other things it is very good at. Obviously, there’s the fact its wheelbase is 35mm longer than the three-door’s, which means there is more space in the rear. The large 380-litre boot, which is bigger than on the five-door BMW 1 Series and Volvo V40, can’t be ignored, either.
Then there’s the impeccable refinement. Even when you are stationary, you can’t hear the engine running. And it’s equally impressive at motorway speeds, with barely any wind or road noise making its way into the cabin.
Add it all together and you’ve got another fast Audi that’s extremely good in a lot of different ways, but ultimately lacking in excitement. If you want a five-door warm hatch, then a BMW 118i M Sport is the more exciting choice, and it’s about £4,000 cheaper, too.